Saturday, 22 March 2014

Gazing up at Dreaming Spires


I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, 
the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people 
to sing instead of speaking. It is all like an opera. 
- William Butler Yeats




Last weekend, the weather was warm, the sky was a perfect blue, and I was surrounded by some of the most beautiful buildings I'd ever seen. Immersed in culture, history and academia, I spent two days taking it all in and enjoying the company of one of my closest friends, who I hadn't seen in six months.

I had never been to Oxford but, having been to Cambridge a few times, I was naturally keen to compare these two historic cities. I travelled up from work on Friday evening, and within hours I was with my friend C, and we had already ventured out to the local pub for a glass of Rose...and so the amusement began.

It was a weekend of laughter, food and exploration. Though C had lived in the city for a while now, she still had not experienced it's full cultural potential. So on our first day, after a delicious pub lunch at The Turf Tavern, we went on a free walking tour of the city run by Footprints Tours. I'd been on a tour with them before in Cambridge and loved it, so I couldn't wait to find out more about Oxford in the same way.

Our tour guide, Katie, was fantastic; engaging, passionate, friendly and her knowledge was phenomenal. The tour was as good as I'd hoped it would be (and I thoroughly recommend the company!)

We gazed up at the stonework, the Latin carved into the walls and the intricate architecture. Katie spoke of the enormous libraries, the ritualistic nature of the graduation ceremonies, each of the renowned colleges, and the distasteful and secretive Bullingdon club. We admired the Bridge of Sighs, peeked at the set for a scene in Harry Potter, and made our disgust known when hearing about the late introduction of women into many of the colleges.








I was drawn in with the stories of the city's links with literature; J R R Tolkein, C S Lewis and Lewis Carroll had all been inspired by the city and those residing in it; it truly is a place of grandeur, magic and creativity. The spires which feature in so many tales; the halls which make up the set for Harry Potter; the lamp post which is oh-so-similar to the one found in the forests of Narnia...it was all so magical and surreal, like the pages of a book coming to life. I was in my element.








By the end of the tour I felt satiated with history, facts and respect for the city; and so we retired into a little cafe called The Buttery, on Broad Street, where I indulged in delicious carrot cake and a cup of tea - naturally. It was much needed after two hours of walking!

I recently read a post by Katie (a different Katie, not our tour guide!) on her blog Scarphelia about the appreciation of circumstance.  She talks about the nature of a spontaneous adventure, and how we should make the most of our circumstances. In her eyes, living so close to Europe, with so many countries just a short flight or drive away, we Brits should be making the most of it. It resonated me; why would we not want to take advantage of this? Indeed, the post gave me a huge need to explore, and I've been dreaming of a trip to Europe ever since.

But it got me thinking...there are so many wonderful places here in our little country, often just a hop, skip and a train journey away. Maybe it isn't as sunny, or exotic, or foreign as travelling to Florence or Bern or Budapest...but with so many beautiful sights literally on our doorstep, there's nothing to stop us from spending a short weekend somewhere new, discovering more about our country, and making the most of our rich culture, heritage and breath-taking sights. You don't have to travel hundreds of miles and spend money on flights to have your breath taken away. It's all right here.






 

It's important that we take the chance to see all of these sights; to hear about the history, about the lives of those who made the world what it is today, and to soak up the atmosphere before things change all over again. Our little country is so varied, and it's so much easier to experience for some of us who just don't have much time or money on our hands. A short weekend away to visit a friend can be all you need to see and experience something new.

I can't tell you how in awe I was of Oxford. I truly fell in love with its beautiful winding streets, its connection with literature and its impressively rich academic past. For me, somewhat of an academic at heart, it was a haven. I could have spent hours sitting and watching people pass by, the dreaming spires reaching towards heaven in a way the thoughts of the greats have for hundreds of years.

Jo
xxx
 

11 comments:

  1. When I was growing up my Mum was a huge believer of "seeing your own country first" ... looking back it was probably just a great excuse not to take kids on an aeroplane! I didn't appreciate it at the time and used to sulk a lot as my friends were going to Florida and I was going to the Lakes! But now I am pretty thankful, it means that I've spent pretty much my whole life happily having weekend breaks round the UK and discovering beautiful new places. I obviously go abroad now that I'm an adult but I still take great delight in visiting places nearby. I've probably been pretty much everywhere now (although funnily enough never to Oxford) and there are so many wonderful cities in the UK ... York, Edinburgh, Bath, Chester, Norwich, Durham, Newcastle as well as lots of pretty countryside in Cornwall, Devon, the Lakes, North Yorkshire etc .. we live in a truly beautiful country and it's good to appreciate it! Love the post xx

    ReplyDelete
  2. Replies
    1. Thank you1 It's amazing what a difference some blue sky can make xx

      Delete
  3. I love your blog. Your photos are great. What software do you use to edit with as I'm looking at buying some?
    Beth x

    www.TheBritishGirl.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh that's such a compliment! Thank you, it means a lot. I'm no photographer - and I use a free website for my photos: http://www.picmonkey.com/ - I can't recommend it enough x

      Delete
  4. What gorgeous photographs - I just love how blue the sky is, admittedly somewhat jealous! I always grew up having UK based family holiday - all my friends would be jetting off to Spain but me and my parents would always be holidaying in the Lakes or Scotland. I'm glad that we did although I never explored as much of the country as I would have liked, especially the south. Def making sure i explore as much of Michigan as I can now though!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I didn't edit them at all, it was so beautiful. I was the same - and haven't actually ventured outside of Europe! But our country is so beautiful. I have seen so much of the Lakes and Scotland too! So many rainy holidays, but so many fond memories - I have the rest of my life to explore the world. Michigan sounds so exciting! Enjoy your adventures! x

      Delete
  5. Oxford is absolutely stunning (as are your photographs) but I haven't been there in years! I think a weekend break is in order...anyone want to join ;) !

    Rachel | AMomentInTime.

    x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really is beautiful! I think you should definitely go back for a weekend soon, especially in this lovely weather! xx

      Delete
  6. OMY I adored wandering around Oxford, and remember that wee bridge of sighs! so adorable! these are fab pics love X

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really is beautiful, especially in the sunshine! Thank you, glad you liked them :) x

      Delete